Anti-Vaxx Mum Changes Stance: "I Wanted Others To Take On The Risk Of Vaccinating"
If you have just had a baby, chances are you'll be getting them the first of their vaccinations shortly.
But vaccinations are a complicated issue for many parents and vaccine refusal is on the rise. I remember calling a GP friend of mine when I was in Holles Street, asking her what was BCG, and should I let them inject it into my brand new baby?
You want to do the best for your child, but I think it's a mother's (and father's) prerogative to question EVERY major decision involving their child over and over until they are sure. Once it was explained to me and I felt more informed, I was more comfortable going ahead with the jab for my baby's wellbeing.
But many parents have been vilified for their decision not to get their children inoculated. It's an issue that's fraught with myths, fears, and confusion. So can you blame some parents for their hesitation? It all started with a study published nearly 20 years ago in The Lancet journal by Dr. Andrew Wakefield. He raised the possibility of a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, bowel disease and autism. This research was later retracted and discredited, and the doctor said his study NEVER asserted a casual relationship between MMR vaccine and autism.
"We merely reported the parent's description of what happened to their children and the clinical findings.'
The study has had dangerous consequences for parents who feared that exposure to such vaccinations could be detrimental to their children. There has been backlash too, from parents who fear unvaccinated children could infect their own.
Speaking to the New York Times, Kristen O’Meara, a teacher from Chicago, says she was staunchly anti-vaccinations until her daughters had a severe case of the retrovirus.
"I got absorbed in the anti-vaxx culture and secretly thought of myself as being superior to others. Parents who vaccinated didn’t have my special investigative skills. As far as I was concerned, they didn’t stop to question and were just sheep following the herd. I just thought: “Let someone else take on the risks of vaccinating. It was a very selfish viewpoint because I had the best of both worlds. I knew that my daughters had a low risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases — precisely because vaccination is effective. I had faith in herd immunity while questioning its very existence."
She hopes her experience can encourage other anti-vaxxers to immunise their children;
"I’m frustrated with the amount of misinformation I encountered when I set out on this journey. But in the end, I am thankful, for the sake of Natasha, Áine, and Lena, that I was able to reassess my position and accept information that is based on well-established, sound scientific evidence. If I can make even one anti-vaxxer think twice, speaking out will have been worth it."
In Ireland, childhood vaccination rates are currently at record levels. The HSE immunisation uptake figures show 92 per cent of children have received the recommended doses of the 'six-in-one vaccine' by their first birthday. This protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) (prevents meningitis, pneumonia, and other serious infections), and hepatitis B.
Although medical science isn't flawless, the Center for Disease Control has begun phasing out a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines as a precautionary measure. But life is not risk-free. It is our job as parents to weight up the question of what will help our child versus what would hinder them more? This goes, not only for vaccinations but for all aspects of life.
Vaccinating our own children can go a long way to protecting them, but what about the importance of protecting others - the younger and more vulnerable children in our community? Is this an ethical responsibility something we all need to take onboard?
(Feature image via Rudy Archuleta New York Times)
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